Friday, June 20, 2014

Disney World, What You REALLY Need to Know.

After a full year of saving and a lot of research and budgeting (and a tremendous amount of help from my parents) we did it.  We took the kids to Disney World.  I went to Disney World several times as a child, but neither of my kids nor my husband has ever been.  It had also been 18 years since I myself had been.  A LOT has changed.

After doing tons of research, Pinning everything Disney related, talking to my Disney expert friends and budgeting EVERYTHING, I was in information overload.  Not all advice was practical for our situation (we avoided character dining due to our budget) and admittedly I blew off advice (read: ponchos) because I thought I knew better.  There were also some things that I wish someone had told me (Breakfast in the Magic Kingdom? Good Luck!)

So below is what I learned and what I would want to know before visiting Disney World:


  • All Disney souvenirs can be bought off Disney property and online, usually for cheaper.  Buy most of your souvenirs before you go and surprise the kids each day.  If you do buy in the parks, buy Disney Parks branded items, you are less likely to find them discounted elsewhere.
  • You can bring a back pack into all the parks.  This was a great budget helper for us as we packed bottles of water, snacks, sunscreen, camera batteries and so much more.  If you don't mind the back back, it is so worth it.  
  • Bring ponchos.  They are $8.50 in the parks.  It will rain.  We've been to Florida and knew it would rain and planned to just duck in and wait out the showers.  It rained half the day each day we were there.  Disney World does not slow down for the rain.  Bring the ponchos.

  • Do not plan on eating breakfast in the Parks, unless you have reservations somewhere.  Seriously, the only place we could find for breakfast in the Magic Kingdom was Starbucks.  None of the other parks looked promising either.  Eat at your hotel and then go, full kids are happier kids.
  • Just because your child meets the height requirement does not mean they should ride the ride.  The very first ride we got on was Stitch at Magic Kingdom.  It never occurred to me that it would be scary, we found out the hard way what the (!) means on those handy maps.
  • If you have a princess, get the Anna and Elsa FastPass+.  While we were there the line was never under two hours.

  • If you have the time, take two days to do the Magic Kingdom.  This is the biggest park and has so many awesome things to do both early in the day and late at night.  I reccomend arriving at park opening one day and doing Frontier Land and Fantasy Land. On the second day, arrive mid or late afternoon and do Main Street, Tomorrow Land and Adventure Land.  Stay for the fireworks and electrical parade.
  • If you need to cool off or take a break, there is an inside air conditioned play area inside the line for Dumbo in Fantasy Land.
  • Likewise, the Laugh Floor in Tomorrow Land is also a nice place to cool off and enjoy a few minutes of comedy.
  • Have a small kid who wants to ride roller coasters like the big kids, but you aren't sure?  Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  It looks like a big roller coaster, but there aren't any large drops and it regularly slows itself down.
  • The best "big" rides are Space Mountain and Splash Mountain

  • Best ride for little kids: Peter Pan
  • There are tons of character spots.  You could devote an entire day to Characters in the Magic Kingdom and I'm still not sure you would meet them all.

  • If you have a day that looks like it will rain all day, plan on going here.  Most things are inside and won't close for rain.
  • You won't want to miss the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, your little kids won't want to miss Disney Jr. Live on Stage
  • The Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area is fun for kids and adults, even if your kids have no idea why it is so cool.
  • This is where you want to meed Woody and Buzz.  It is set up really well with lots of photo opportunities while you wait in line.
  • Best rides for big kids: Tower of Terror and Rocking Roller Coaster
  • Best rides for little kids: Toy Story Mania

  • Has the best authentic food.  If you can, eat lunch or dinner in your favorite country.  You will not be disappointed. (Note: This is usually pricier than the other food at Disney World, but is sooooo worth the splurge)
  • When you get to Epcot, go and walk the countries first, then do Future World.  Future world usually clears out by early afternoon.
  • Use your FastPass+ on Soarin, Mission:Space or Test Track
  • There is an awesome Character spot in Future World where you can meet some of your favorites.
  • This is the hardest place to meet the Princesses.  They only come out at certain times and only for about 30 minutes at a time.  The lines are usually long and you will have to wait quite a while.
  • Epcot has a spectacular fireworks show if you are there at night
  • Epcot can be done in half a day.

  • Go in the morning.  All but the tigers are most active in the morning.
  • When you arrive, go to Africa, Discovery Island, Dino World and end in Asia.  The tigers are in Asia and aren't active until 2 or 3PM in the afternoon.  The tigers are on the jungle trek in Asia.  
  • Don't eat lunch at Flame Tree BBQ.  It does not hold up to my Tennessee standards.  There is better food to be had in the park.
  • Use your FastPass+ on the Safari, Everest, Kali River Rapids or DINOSAUR

  • This park will likely not take you all day.
I hope these tips help in your planning.  If you have any questions about how things work, please ask.  I'll be happy to answer any questions.  Next week, I'll tell you the things Disney World does very well, and the things they got very wrong.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

61 Cheap things to do this Summer in Middle Tennessee

With Memorial Day just around the corner, I started wondering what me and the kids were going to do this summer.  Since I changed jobs in February, this will be the first summer that I am off work the majority of the time with the kids, they will not be in day camps or day care.  I also took a considerable pay cut, so our budget is limited.

Then I looked on Facebook and found that I wasn't the only one looking for CHEAP things to do this summer.  It is great if you can afford to hit the zoo, science center, Holiday World, Cheekwood and Nashville shores all this summer, but I can't.

So here is my list of 61 (1 thing every day for June and July) to do in Middle Tennessee (or for most, anywhere) this summer for an average of $5 or less per person:

At Home:
1.   Start a water balloon fight.
2.   Organize a scavenger hunt.
3.   Put the Pinterest Board to use, have a craft day.
4.   Have a picnic in the back yard.
5.   Spend the day playing and creating new games.
6.   Set up carnival type games in the back yard and invite friends/neighbors to play.
7.   Camp out in your back yard.  Don't go in the house for anything, except maybe the bathroom.
8.   Make and obstacle course, inside or outside.
9.   Have a Lego building contest.
10. Find a pen pal in another country.
11. Have a neighborhood water gun fight.
12. Have a talent show with friends.
13. Black out the windows and have a movie night during the day, in your PJ's.

14. Spend a day doing yard work/gardening. Let the kids really play in the dirt.
15. One night, turn out all the lights and have a glow in the dark night. Play tag, dance to music, blow glow in the dark bubbles.

Hometown USA:
16. Visit your local library for story hour.  Locally, I can personally reccomend Nashville Public Library Down town, Springfield and Hendersonville.
17. Register your kids at Kids Bowl Free and they can each get 2 free games of bowling each day.  Note: you can only pick one bowling center, so pick your favorite, you'll be bowling there all summer.
18. Sign your children up for Vacation Bible School. If you need reccomendations, ask your friend's and neighbors.  Maybe you can even carpool!   I have some fabulous reccomendations for Robertson and Cheatham counties!
19. Take the kids to pick your own fruit!  You can find a local farm here.  I personally reccomend Bottom View Farms in Sumner County.
20. Find a creek.  Creeks are wonderful ways to cool off and explore nature.
21.Give the kids $5 to spend and take them to Goodwill, a used book store or a yard sale.  They can spend hours exploring before spending their money.
22. Go out for ice cream.  I am partial to Banana Boats in Portland, Tennessee.
23. Sign the kids up for classes at Michael's. The Passport to Imagination class is only $2 per child and all supplies are included.
24. Sign the kids up for the free Lowe's Build and Grow workshops.  My daughter is looking forward to the "Toothless" project on June 14.  Other dates/project are available throughout the summer. Workshops are every other Saturday at 10AM.
25. Similarily, Home Depot also offers free workshops. Workshops are the first Saturday of the month at 9AM.  Registration is required.
26.  Check out your local county museum to learn some interesting local history.  Sumner County museum admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children.  Robertson County admission is $4 for adults and $1 for students. Check with the museum for hours of operation
27. Go geocaching.  It is basically an outdoor treasure hunt.  Older kids will especially find this fun.  Be prepared to leave a small treasure also!

The rest of this post is going to list specific sites in Middle Tennessee, however most can be adapted for your hometown.  These are just our favorite local spots for biking, hiking, etc.

Davidson County:
28. Visit the Bicentenniel Mall State Park on June 1 for vintage baseball and Statehood Day.
29. Hit Fun Fridays at Moss Wright Park.  We are especially excited about Party in the Park on June 27. Events are every other Friday throughout the summer. All events are free.
30. Take a dip in the Pleasant Green Pool in Goodletsville.  Admission is $5.
31. Dancing in the District (now called Nashville Dancin') is back and it is FREE! Check out a schedule here.  I haven't actually heard of many (any) of the bands, but so what.
32. Take a tour of the Parthenon.  Adult admission is $6, but children's admission is $4, so it averages to $5 per person.
33. Check out Warner Park Nature Center for several free programs.  The Center is closed every Sunday and Monday.
34. Explore downtown Nashville. Walk across the pedestrian bridge, play in the fountains at Bicentenniel Mall State park, ride the Music City Circuit and explore Broadway all for FREE.  Want to spend a little cash, splurge at the Arcade.  They have THE BEST peanuts, donuts, icecream...FOOD (but still reasonably priced!)
35. Tour the Nissan plant.  Tours are free and are every Tuesday and Thursday at 10AM and 1PM.  Reservations are required.

36. If you have a car enthusiast, you are not going to want to miss Lane Motor Museum. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Adult admission is $9, Children 6-17 is $3 and 5 and under is free.
37.  The Tennessee Statue Museum is free (for MOST exhibits) and is open Tuesday through Saturday 10AM to5PM.
38. Take the kids on a tour of the State Capitol.  Guided tours are free and available Monday through Friday from 9AM to 4PM.
39. Explore Fort Negley.
40. Sign your older kids (ages 8-12) for Apple Retail Store Movie Camp.  Camp is 3 days.  You can check out information here.
41. Bass Pro Shop has an amazing and FREE Family Summer Camp from Noon to 5PM on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sundays this summer.
42. Enjoy some world class music for free.  Go downtown June 5-8 for CMA Music Fest.  There are free stages set up with known acts.  Plus you never know who you will bump into!
43. Before CMA gets in full swing, check out CMA GlobaLive.  It is a free concert showcasing country artists from around the world.
44. Take your artist to the Frist Center. Adult admission is $10, but children are free.  There are plenty of hands on things to do at Martin ArtQuest which is on the upper level and included in admission.

Sumner County:
45. Take a hike at Bledsoe Creek State Park.  The park is along Old Hickory lake and has some beautiful views.  There are trails appropriate for children.  They will also be having Jr. Ranger Camp June 16-20.  If you plan to splurge, camp sites are $25 on the lake.
46. Break out the bikes on Hendersonville's greenway.  Most of the greenway is flat which we prefer for bike riding.
47. Celebrate Freedom at Drakes Creek Park on July 3.  Festival is from 4PM to 11PM with fireworks at nightfall.  The festival is free, however there will be LOTS of vendors to purchase goodies and food from.
48. Check out Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville.  It has a disc golf course and a model airplane flying field.  It is also right on the lake, so you can walk out on the docks and stick your feet in.  There are also 2 small playgrounds.
49. Go swimming at Gallatin Civic Center. There is a large pool and slide.  Admission is $5.
50. Check out another greenway at Triple Creek Park in Gallatin.  This greenway is also perfect for bike riding or a nice family stroll.  The park is appropriately named, so there is a creek to play in, a play ground and a disc golf course.
51. Go to a Movie in a Park in Portland.  Red 2 will be showing on June 28.  The movie is free and popcorn is only 25 cents!
52. Touch a Truck at Richland Park in Portland on July 25, 10AM to Noon.  Event is free.
53. Take the kids fishing June 7. Memorial Park in Hendersonville will stock the lake and kids fish free.  No permit is required.  Similar events are happening the same day at Cheatham Dam in Ashland City (Cheatham County) and at Travis Price Park in Springfield (Robertson County).
54. Spend the day at the lake.  I personally like Old Hickory lake simply because I think it is cleaner.  There is a swim beach at Lock 3 in Hendersonville.  There are also swim beaches/lakes in Davidson, Wilson and at Cheatham Dam in Cheatham County.
55. Enjoy a $1 movie at Indian Lake Regal thanks to The Summer Move Express.  2 movies are played each week on Tuesday and Wednesdays at 10AM. Get there early, the theaters fill up fast.  Week 1 starts June 3.

Robertson County:
56. Ride your bike on the Springfield Greenway. This greenway is flat and runs between 2 great parks.
57. Take a stroll on the White House Greenway.  This greenway is a bit longer but you have to go up and down 2 large inclines. We stray away on our bikes, but it is lovely to walk.
58. Enjoy some live music at Sumner Crest Winery. The next concert is June 7 and they will be playing music from the 50's and 60's.  Concert starts at 6:30PM. July 12 will be music from the 70's and 80's. Admission is free and is always a good time for the whole family.

Cheatham County:
59. The Cumberland Bicentenniel Trail is a nice kid friendly hike (or mountain bike trail ride).

Dickson County:
60. Take a trip to Montgomer Bell State Park.  This is by far our favorite place to go hiking.  They have trails of all length and difficulty.  Take a hike to one of the small lakes and for a swim then have a picnic.

Wilson County:
61. Spend the day at Cedar of Lebanon. There are playgournds, hiking, disc golf and a pool ($5 admission, closed Monday and Tuesdays).  If you have the money to splurge, go horseback riding ($20 each).

What budget friendly activities did I miss?  What are you looking forward to this summer?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Frugal Friday: Tips for Saving Money

At least once a year, we re-evaluate our spending and see where we can save money.  Think of it as spring cleaning for your finances.

Here are some things to look at/think about:

  • Cell Phone Bills: Does your carrier have any new plans that meet your needs are are cheaper?  Do you actually use 800 minutes a month?
  • Cable/Satellite: Which channels do you watch, how often do you watch them?  Would you really miss anything if you cut back (or off) your cable and got netflix/hulu/etc instead?
  • Internet: Check around and see which provider has the best offers right now!
  • Gas Money: Could you carpool (with a spouse,friend,co worker)?  Is the person driving the furthest in your house, driving the best gas mileage vehicle?  Can you plan trip and errands so you only go out once?  Mass transit continues to grow, there could be new possibilities in your area.
  • Bartering: If there are services that you know you are going to need (child care, tree service, mechanic work, etc), is there anything you can barter for the services?  Maybe a friend is willing to watch your children the week you need child care, in return you can clean her house or supply a few meals.  Maybe your neighbor is willing to trim your trees for you, in return you could mow his yard or babysit his kids.  You can barter anything: photography, resume writing, editing, dog walking. ANYTHING.
  • Insurance: It never hurts to compare your home and auto insurance to what is available out there.  Make sure you are getting the best rates and all the discounts you qualify for.  Also make sure you have the coverage you need, but cut out extras that you do not need.
Happy (Financial) Spring Cleaning!!

Do you have any suggestions on where to look for a few extra bucks? Do you have a great story about bartering? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Parenting: Hands Off Hands On

The past two days we have been snowed in (well, snowed in for Tennessee) and I have been amazed: by my daughter.

At six years old, Shiloh still prefers NPT (channel 8 around here) programming to the Disney Channel.  She would rather watch "The Cat in the Hat" than "Jessi".  She would rather watch "Word Girl" or "Super Why" than "Austin and Alley" or "I Didn't Do It".  If you had asked me a week ago, I would have said those programs were beneath her. That she was too old for such programming.

 Hmmmm, maybe not.  Maybe, I'm the one pushing her to grow up.

What is more, she actually prefers to NOT watch TV.  What? She would much rather be working a puzzle, drawing, baking or playing make believe.  Electronics really are a last resort for her.


These past two days are really making me re-evaluate my parenting with her.  Obviously she is not a mini-ME.  She does not have the same passion for movies and video games that her brother does.

She is her, and she is wonderful.

With that being said, I'm going to let her teach me. I am going to be hands off in picking activities so her natural interests develop in their own time and in their own way.

I will be more hands on, in doing these activities with her.

I want to encourage her to grow and try new things, but never push her. Never squash her spirit.  She is amazing. She is smart, funny, creative and caring.  She is also still so innocent.

 And I am going to let her be.

Please join me in this parenting journey.  I am turning off the TV and letting my daughter pick our activities, movies, etc during play time. I will encourage her.  I will let her grow. I will watch her blossom.  Please, slow down with me and let our children be our children.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Season of Change

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So if you remember, last month I wrote about my child care issues, and well how I have none.  I should say, had none.  Shortly after that post, I accepted a position (an assistant) at a local school here in Portland.  I spent 2 weeks working crazy overtime at my previous employer to get things in order for my responsibilities to be transitioned to someone new, and then I've spent the last two weeks getting acclimated to my new schedule.  As of Friday afternoon, my hours changed (for the better!).

With this new job, I'll have more time to devote to my family, my church, my photography, BLOGGING, and other hobbies.  So I've been giving more and more thoughts to what I want this blog to be, and I need your input.  As much as this blog is a form of therapy and record for me, I want it to be something of substance, something that people want.  With this new job, I've taken a substantial pay cut, so I'll definitely be keeping Frugal Friday.  After my last entry where I wrote a rebuttal to an article floating around the internet, I think I want to do that regularly.  So once a week, I will use my God given talent of playing devils advocate, and rebute an opinion piece.  This is where I really need your help, what to you want to see, or what do you think needs a rebuttal?  If you find an interesting piece, please, Please, PLEASE send it to me.  You can leave the link as a comment on any post on this blog, email it to me, or send it to me via twitter (@brookeblogsthis) or facebook.

Also, what else do you want to see on this blog?  I will always blog "mommy blog"content.  But what else?  Would you be interested in parenting tips/resources, special needs topics, religion/church, current topics?  Please let me know what you are interested in! PLEASE give me articles for rebuttal/critique.

I can't wait to see what is in store for me this season.  I can't wait to grow as a mother and wife in ways I never thought I'd have the opportunity to do so.  I can't wait to serve in my church more freely.  I can't wait to grow my photography business.  I can't wait to see what this blog can become.  I can't wait to persue my other interests and relationships as well.  I hope you will stick with me through this season of change.

Friday, February 28, 2014

6 Ways to Love on.....Everyone. And a rebuttal.

I don't normally post religious things.  I find my own personal take on religion to be.....quirky at time.  However, I recently saw an article floating around the web that was written by what I assume is a 20 something single lady.  It was how she felt single women need to be loved on by married persons in a church congregation.  You can read it here. I found parts of the article to be sound theory and spot on, while other parts were, shall we say misguided.  By the end of the article, I was also thinking, why are there so many separate "groups" in a church and how we all need to be loved on, not just one group.  So here is my humble rebuttal (based on my life and experiences) and also a simple blue print on how you can love on anyone in your church congregation....or anyone in the world.

In response to “Six ways to Love Single Women:"

              1.  Words are hurtful.  People should choose their words carefully, I agree. God has many reasons for not bringing you that “someone” yet.  He obviously has more work for you to do as a single woman/man.  He may never bring you that someone.  I know that is hard to hear, and I’d like to think he wouldn’t give you the desire if you are never meant to be married. However, we have all met the arch enemy, the devil.  I advise you to give yourself wholly to the Lord.  Read the Bible, pray and be the Lord’s tool.  Stay busy for the Lord and IF it’s meant to happen, it will.  If not, then I doubt you’ll notice because the Lord will be filling you with an unimaginable amount of joy for following His will.

“Because you, Lord, bless the righteous. You cover them with favor like a shield.” Psalms 5:12

          2.       I agree that we should not attempt to “fix” anyone.  Empathy is important.  Encouragement, especially biblical, is vital.  However, sometimes people may sharpen or challenge an individual whose desires are not being granted. I like the suggestion that when asked by a single person, to pray with them for a spouse.  However, I would LOVE for the advice to be to pray with the individual that God grant them peace and understanding during this time in their life.  Pray that if now is not the time to seek a spouse, that God will diminish this desire and replace it with a desire that is fitting to His will.  However, single ladies (and gentleman) we need to know that you are fighting such battles, to know that you need and want to be prayed over and for. 

“Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.”1Corinthians 10: 13

               3.       Asking about a person’s day to day life is a wonderful way to invest in a person.  However, the gesture should be reciprocated.  Married folks need to be checked on as well.  We want/need to be asked about our day/spouses/kids as well.  Single people, if you are wanting more people in your life, don’t wait for them to come seeking you.  SEEK them.  Start by sending a text to a married person asking about their day.  Chances are, they will reciprocate.  They will start checking in and asking about you and your life.  Married people, I’m not saying you’re off the hook until a single person seeks you out, we should all be seeking each other out.  Neither side should be sitting back and waiting to be found by the other.  Why are we on different sides anyway??

“No one should look out for their own advantage, but they should look out for each other.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

                4.       Affirmation is desired by all.  Single girls, I understand your need to be told you are pretty.  Single gentleman, that you look nice.  However, this is true of all males and females.  Don’t assume that a married woman will get all dressed up and then be doted on by her husband.  Haven’t you ever heard the old adage about a woman drastically changing her hair and the husband not noticing?  It is true.  Nothing hurts a married woman more than her husband not acknowledging (I’m told that they do notice, they just don’t always verbally or otherwise affirm) her efforts.  Also, you may have had a full hour to get dressed.  A woman with small children may have had 15 very interrupted minutes.  She does not feel put together, her hair may be up, simply because it is unwashed.  The married woman needs to hear she looks pretty, just as much as the single girls.  I imagine the same goes for the gentleman.

“What I mean is that we can mutually encourage each other while I am with you. We can be encouraged by the faithfulness we find in each other, both your faithfulness and mine.” Romans 1:12

                  5.       Single women and men, I would love to fellowship with you, to disciple you.  However, if I invite you over to my house, it will be for dinner, lunch or coffee.  It will not be for wine, dinner and a movie after the kids go to bed.  I’ll be going to bed soon after the kids.  They will be up by 6am.  Please note: I did not say at 6 am, I said BY 6 am.  After the kids are in bed: ISN’T. GOING. TO. HAPPEN.  Also, I don’t mind your small apartment and roommate. In fact, I’d like to meet your roommate.  Why not invite the woman with small kids over for coffee.  She would love to get out of her house.  She would also love not having to clean up her house for you to come over.  Have you ever tried to clean up after a 2 year old?  You have no idea how much work she put into her house before you came over and then still apologized because it still wasn’t as clean as it used to be before kids.  Also, a side note: The reason your pastor may encourage you to seek out folks in a "life stage ahead" of you: because you are to be seeking Godly counsel from the people who you want to be like.  He is encouraging you to find women/men who are doing something you admire and wish to learn from.  You may not wish to learn from every wife/mother.  You may choose to seek out someone who is in missions instead of married...they are still a "life stage ahead" because they are already doing what you desire.

“And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

6.       God calls us to be generous with all that we have.  I’m sure it would be nice to be given the items on wedding registry.  News flash, most newly-weds don’t receive all the items on their wish list. They get towels. I’ve been married for almost eight years and I still don’t have a mixer.  I own 2 skillets and 3 pots.  I do have 2 sets of dishes, one from Wal-Mart (that I actually got when I was in college, before I was even dating my now spouse) and one from Target.  Most of the married couples in your congregation don’t have the money to give you new items.  They don’t have the money to buy themselves new ones and give you the hand me downs (though, if they did, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind passing them along).  I had more disposable money as a single person, than I do as a married woman.  As a single woman, I could eat ramen noodles, spaghetti and sandwiches for a week if I needed to buy a new gadget.  Not so much once I was responsible for feeding a meat eating man and small growing humans.  Rent and your electric bill can’t compare with a mortgage, property taxes, child care, dance and baseball.  A single person has one income for one person.  We have two incomes for four people.  You do the math.  I will, however, be happy to show you how to coupon and cook with the resources you do have.  I will be happy to give you my time and knowledge.  Just ask.

“It is more blessed to give than receive.” Acts 20:35

As for how we can love on EVERYONE in our congregation (or workplace/neighborhood/etc), it really is quite simple.

1.       Make it a point to ask about their lives.  Ask if you can check in with them during the week. Friend/Follow them on social media. Get their email.  Stay in contact.  Many feel disconnected between Sunday's. Especially the newbies.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35

2.       Affirm the person’s value.  Once you get to know the person, ask their advice on a matter they have knowledge about.  People in general want to know that they have value, that they have something to offer.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

3.       Serve that person.  Bring them a meal, offer to baby sit (set a concrete time, otherwise the parents may never ask. It is awkward asking someone to watch your kids for free), mow their grass.  Find out how you can serve them best and then do it!

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:"1 Peter 4:10

4.       Find out the person’s love language, and use it. Do they value time? quality conversations?

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love Honor one another above yourselves." Ephesians 4:32
5.       Listen.  Encourage. Sharpen. When someone is struggling, be careful of your words. Lift them up. Encourage them. Share your own similar stories. And when necessary, sharpen them for the Lord.  We all have problems and short comings in our lives that we feel isolate us.  But the truth is: many have been, currently are, or will eventually battle the same problems.  

“May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God.”2Corinthians 1:3-4

6.       Pray with them and for them. So very simple, yet so powerful.

“But you, dear friends: build each other up on the foundation of your most holy faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, keep each other in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will give you eternal life.” Jude 1:20-21

The truth of the matter, is we are all not that different, no matter what stage of life we are in.  One stage of life should not be pitted against another in a church.  No matter who is in your congregation: singles, marrieds, single parents, married worshipping alone; they need your love and support no matter who YOU are.  Be sensitive to each other’s situation and limitations and we can all fellowship together.

“Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that your fellow believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:9

P.S. I'll have another blog post soon about why I've been silent for 2 weeks and all the new happenings in my life.  Then I'll get back on track. ;)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Frugal Friday - Winter Fun- 20 Activities

We've had a lot of  "snow"days since Christmas.  A. LOT.  Snow days are one thing when there is actually snow on the ground and the kids want to go out and play.

But it's something completely different when it's just cold.  Possibly raining.  And the kids are bored and stir crazy.

Plus you still have weekends/holidays/afternoons to keep your kids buys inside as well. And you have little or no money.

What to do. What to do.

Here are 20 things we have done/plan to do this winter:

1. Have an indoor picnic. Simply eating on the floor can completely change a meal.
2. Build a tent/fort indoors.
3. Go to your mall's indoor play area
4. Go to story time at the library
5. Introduce your kids to the cartoons you watched growing up via Youtube. My kids love "Bobby's World"and "Muppet Babies"
6. Do something touristy in your own town.  Tour a museum or historic building. Many of these are free/low cost. Sometimes even small towns have museums/attractions that are often overlooked. Springfield has the Robertson County Museum.
7. Take a tour of a factory.
8. Put on a play of your child's favorite book
9.Invite a neighbor/friend over
10. Go get Ice Cream
11. Let the kids make up a game. Play it no matter how crazy it is.
12. Rent a movie at Redbox. 
13. Have a scavenger hunt
14. Mad Libs (for school age kids)
15. Volunteer somewhere. Church, Soup Kitchen, any cause.
16. Go to Good Will. Give each kid $2-$5 to spend on whatever they want.
17. If you are in/around Nashville, ride the music city star or you can ride busses around down town for free.
18. Set up fair type games at home. (ring toss, pick a duck, bean bag toss, etc)
19. Do a science experiment. You can find tons here.
20. Try a new fun recipe and let the kids help.

What are your boredom busters?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chicken Nachos

Cooking is not one of my favorite things.  I would really rather not.  If I didn't have kids to feed, I probably wouldn't cook at all.

However, I do like being creative.  If I am going to be in the kitchen, I would much rather be throwing random ingredients together than following a recipe.

Sometimes my new recipes are hits.  Sometimes they are epic fails.  Last night I got lucky!

Here is the recipe for my Chicken Nachos (feeds 4):

Ingredients: 2 Chicken breast, 16oz Chunky Salsa, Mexican Blend Cheese, Paprika, Chili Powder, Salt, Pepper

1.) Pre Heat over to 400 degrees
2.) Season chicken with salt, pepper, paprika and chili powder
3.)Bake chicken uncovered in glass casserole dish for 25 minutes
4.) Shred chicken and place in bowl
5.) Pour Salsa and 1/2 bag of cheese over chicken. Mix Well
6.)Pour chicken/salsa/cheese mixture into casserole dish. Spread evenly
7.) Top with rest of the cheese
8.)Bake for another 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

Serve with chips.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Frugal Friday-Fast Food

Our Friday night's are very busy, so we've decided to stop cooking on Friday nights and eat out.  However, we still need to do so on a budget.  I've worked $20 into our weekly budget for Friday nights.  If you have eaten out lately, you know feeding a family of 4 on $20 isn't always easy, especially when you don't want to eat the same thing every week.  Below are some of our favorite places to eat and an idea of how we make it work.

Note: Most of the time, we get the food and bring it home. This way we can use the drinks we already have at home!

Little Ceasars: $5 pizza's.  Need I say more

Papa John's: They regularly run deals with $11 large pizzas.  If you sign up for the rewards program and order online, you'll end up eventually earning a free pizza.  Watch out for codes to get more points.  I've earned and redeemed SEVERAL free pizzas!

McDonalds: They recently re-did the value menu and our regular orders are no longer just a $1.  However, you can still easily score 4 hamburger or chicken sandwiches, fries (we generally get 2 large fries and split them), and 4 large drinks for under $20.  This is the only place we get drinks, every time.

Krystals: The sackfull combos are actually a very good deal!

Subway: Subway runs deals on footlongs during various months.  For January, all footlongs were $5.  We recently got 3 footlongs and 3 chips to share for $20.  That was actually supper and lunch!

Taco bell- If you just get Taco's you can get plenty to feed a family of 4.

What are your favorite fast food places to eat at on a budget?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sight Words

My daughter has always loved reading and I've always encouraged it.  We have always read books, and now that she is in Kindergarten, we have stepped it up a notch.  We have set a goal of her knowing 200 sight words before 1st grade.

This is the list we came up with.
We currently know 91!  We started with 15 words and I made flash cards.  Once my daughter can go through the sight word flash card in 2 seconds per card, we add 15 more words. (We are at 91, because mommy's math got off at some point!).  My daughter loves trying to beat the timer so this has become a game for her.  We also use the flash cards to practice alphabetizing.  We count the cards to work on numbers.  We've also put them in piles by the starting letter and made graphs!  Who ever said flash cards aren't "fun" is WRONG! We have a blast.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Why I yell at my kids, and don't plan to apologize

First let me start by saying, I understand that ÿelling" isn't the most preferable way to speak to my children, or anyone for that matter.  But, occasionally, I find it necessary.  And I don't plan to apologize.

Why do I yell?  Most often, because I've tried the speak clearly, calmly, sternly...and my kids are still talking over me.  Whining. Being loud.  Doing exactly what I am trying to tell them to not do.
Sometimes I yell because the situation calls for it, like when my 6 year old is about to touch a hot stove, or my eleven year old is about to ride his bike into the back of my car.
Occasionally, I yell because I'm at the end of my rope. And I NEED to get that point across.

I can here some of you parenting experts out there listing all kinds of other options.  Get their attention, get on their eye level, speak calmly but sternly.  Give them natural consequences.  Divert their attention.

I do these, I really do.  I am the QUEEN of natural consequences. However, sometime, these just don't work.  Or sometime, I don't have the time and patience for these to work.  Sometime, I really just need my kids to go play quietly in their room, or anywhere besides my kitchen.  And unfortunately, when I yell, that is when my kids KNOW I mean business.

"Maybe you should go take a time out in your room"I can here some of you saying.  Yeah, my kids just keep knocking on my door. Asking questions. The bathroom is not even sacred.

"Well, it's your fault, you've taught them that when you yell, is when they need to listen," um, well maybe.

But I'm not sorry.  What am I teaching my children?  That is is OK to get frustrated.  That mom does have a breaking point.  That they are going to make people mad/upset in their lives. That anger and frustration can be expressed without hitting/kicking, running away or calling people names.

I really don't think it's the end of the world.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Frugal Friday - Consignment Sale Time

I realize that is was below 0 degrees last week.

I fully realize that Spring does not öfficially" begin til late March.

That has absolutely no bearing on when Spring consignment season begins.

Spring consignment season begins February 1!

Even though it will still be too cold to wear those shorts, flip flops and sun dresses for several more months here in Tennessee, now is the time to take them out of storage and assess.  What still fits (you, the kids, the hubs), what is still your style, and what do you need.

If you plan on selling these items, you need to start collecting wire hangers, safety pins and index cards.  If you plan on printing your tags (and some larger sales REQUIRE this!), you will need to buy card stock.

Please check the individual requirements for the sale you will be consigning with, but here is a basic step by step process:

Week 1: Gather supplies and all the items you would like to sell (Spring/Summer clothes in good condition, toys that aren't stuffed animals, ANY baby items, furniture, and home decorations).  You will need a dedicated space in your house for the next several weeks (a dining room table, guest bedroom, etc). Register for the sale and confirm your drop off date/time.

Week 2: Launder and clean all the items you want to sell.  Group them by category and clothing by gender and size.

Week 3: Tag, Tag, Tag Tag.  Your fingers will hurt. Your head will hurt. It will be worth it.  When tagging children's clothes, pair desirable items (a nice pair of jeans) with less desirable items (plain t-shirt).  Yes, the jeans would have sold by them selves, but the shirt maybe not.  Pair them together and price them for the total amount you would have asked seperately.  This only works on Children's clothing under size 14.  Also, make sure to mark items you are NOT willing to accept half price on. Most sales have half priced day the last day of the sale and if your item(s) are not marked "ND", it can be sold for half of what you are asking. You can mark some of your items "ND"and allow others to be sold for half priced.

Week 4:  Drop off your items. Make sure they are sorted by your sale's guidelines.  Shop the pre-sale and invite a friend!!

Week 5 or 6: Pick up your unsold items from the sale or allow them to be donated.

Week 7 or 8: Receive your check!  I will be placing my check this year in the vacation fund!

Consignment sales are a great time to buy new and gently used clothing, shoes, furniture, toys and baby items.  Here are my best tips:

  • Take a laundry basket to carry the items you would like to purchase
  • Always look at the size you are needing as well as a size both bigger and smaller
  • Start with shoes. Then hit larger items, baby items, clothing and then everything else
  • Shop opening day and closing day. Opening day you will get the best items, Closing day you will get the best deals.
  • Take a list of things you are looking for, but be open to finding other great finds.
  • Try to leave the kids at home.  This can be a long process and can involve standing in line for a while.
  • Make a budget and stick to it.
  • Look over your items VERY well before purchasing. You cannot return the items.
  • Bring Cash. Some accept other form of payments, but cash will be better and keep you on budget.
Below is a list of my favorite sales, where I make the most and find the best items. Some of these sites have not updated for the spring sales yet, keep checking back!
Encores North in Hendersonville
Grace's Closet in White House
24 Kids  In Pleasant View

To find more sales near you, please check out Kids Consignment Sales and Consigning Time.

What are your best tips for shopping consignment sales? For selling items at the sales?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Child Care Hours Around Here Suck

Over the Christmas break, my baby sitter quit.  I spent the next 2 weeks searching for child care and discovered something.

I live in a child care desert. DESERT!

There is not one child care facility in my school zone. Not one.

My daughters school does offer after school care until 5:30 PM and that is where I currently I have her registered.  They do not offer before care.

However, I am used to having child care 6AM to 6 PM.

I live 45 miles from where I work.  By the time I drive (with traffic), park and get into work, it takes about an hour and half.

So I work for 8 hours, with a 30 minute lunch:  8.5
Normal traffic to work each morning:                1.5
Normal traffic from work each morning:            1.5
Total time I HAVE to be away from home:       11.5 hours.

See why I NEED 12 complete hours of child care. The normal traffic does not allow for wrecks or increased traffic due to weather.

I am becoming increasingly concerned that I will not be able to make this child care situation work. I have exhausted every resource and option I know.  It makes me wonder how other people manage child care and still make a living?

Unfortunately, this is the only option and therefor the only plan that we have.

I would love nothing more than to work from home or work the hours my child is in school, but we just can't make it financially.

Here is fingers crossed, this magically works out.

On the bright side, my daughter seemed to love her first 2 afternoons in the new program!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Frugal Friday- Making extra money

It's nice to save money, but it is even better to MAKE a little extra money, and now is the perfect time!

With the holidays officially behind us, now is the perfect time.  We all have more....stuff now, and likely need to clean out our closets.  Maybe you got some things for Christmas that you don't necessarily want to keep, but couldn't return. 

I know you were thinking Ï can re-gift this!" Why keep it around for a whole year, when you could sell it for a little extra cash now?

And what about all those Spring/Summer clothes that no longer fit (the kids of course, I know NONE of us have gained any weight over the holidays).

Why not get a jump on the spring cleaning and clean out the house and make some extra (vacation?) money.  Have I got you on board?  Then get to cleaning those closets out and compile all the stuff you want out of your house!

But now what, where do we sell these things.  There are tons of options for selling items, and I've tried my hand at most of them.

Yard Sale- Yard Sales  by far take the most time and effort on your part.  You have to set up, price and man the sale all day long.  You can get a good turn out, especially if you live in a high traffic area and get with a friend or two to make it a "multi-family"sale.  However, it is 5 degrees out side today, and not really yard sale weather where I live.  Plus, I just don't have a weekend to spend sitting in my front yard.  This is actually my least favorite way to sell, just because it is so time consuming and dependent on the weather.

Consignment Sale- Believe it or not, consignment season is just around the corner. Consignment sales are generally held in doors and you will only be responsible for tagging your items, others work the sale.  You need to be careful though, because some sales are very picky about how the items are brought in, especially clothes.  They may require wire hangers facing a certain way with the tag in a certain place, etc.  You will also be charged a fee to consign (around $10) plus they will take about 30% of your profit.  I generally do very well with selling Children's clothes and bigger toys/furniture at these sales.  Shoes also sell well.  However, tagging can still be very time consuming and you loose part of your profit.

Ebay- Ebay was the original on-line yard sale. For this to work best, you will also need a paypal account.  You list your item with either a set price, or allow people to bid.  You can also charge the buyer for shipping or pay shipping yourself.  I've always had my best luck by starting my item at $.99 and letting people bid and having the buyer pay shipping as well.  You can also sell clothes or other items in "lots" or groups.  Beware though, if you are new to Ebay, they will hold the buyers funds until the buyer receives their item, so you will have to pay shipping out of pocket at first.  Ebay will also take a small percentage of the sale and so will Paypal.  Shipping can also be time consuming and expensive up front. However, if you have the extra time and funds up front, I have gotten my biggest return from Ebay.

Craigslist- Craigslist, unlike Ebay, is free and local (and by local I mean everyone that considers themselves Nashville instead of Chattanooga).  You can post your item for free, along with your phone number and people will call you about your item.  Most people will try to haggle you and get a cheaper price.  Once you have a buyer, you and the buyer will agree upon a time and they will meet you to get the item.  I'm not as fond of Craigslist, because most of the questions/negotiations are done by phone and I don't particularly like having my phone number out in public.  However, it is completely free and you are in charge of all pricing.  I've found that Craigslist is the best way to sell very large items (boats, kitchen tables, etc).

Facebook- These days, everyone is selling things on their personal facebook pages.  I've had some luck with this myself.  The downside? you are selling directly to your friends, so your audience is limited.  Plus if the sale doesn't go according to plan, or your friend ends up feeling ripped off, there goes a virtual friendship.

Varagesale-  Varagesale is an app for your phone (iphone atleast) that allows you to join local (real local, not like craigslist local) or world wide online yard sales.  The app is free.  You post your item for free.  People comment through the app (they have none of your personal information!) and you decide on a place to meet (or you ship the item if its world wide).  Everything is free, personal info is kept confidential, and it can be truly local.  This is by far my new favorite way to sell!

Do you have any other good ways to sell your stuff?  What are your thoughts on how to sell items?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Almost 6

Walking across the church parking lot, I reach for my daughters hand. 

"I don't need to hold your hand" says my daughter. 

Absent mindedly I ask "oh, are you too big to hold my hand now?"

"Well, I'm almost six. So the answer might be yes"

:short pause:

"But don't be mad " she finishes, "I'm almost six."

And in one poetic conversation, my daughter reminds me that she is growing up AND that I can't be "mad" about it. 

She is almost 6. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How do you wear high heels, everyday?

I'm a pretty low maintenance girl.  I am happy in my flip flops, jeans and tennis shoes.  However, sometimes that girly side of me kicks in and I want to wear a cute pair of shoes.  Many times, this cute pair of shoes involve high heels. After wearing the cute shoes for a few hours, I'm left wondering ladies...HOW DO YOU WEAR HIGH HEELS ALMOST EVERY DAY?


I got a new pair of boots for Christmas with a modest heel.  They fit perfect and are super cute.  I wore them to work for the first time the other day and came home with huge blisters on the ball of my feet.  Now I don't have a job that requires a lot of standing and walking. I walk from my car to the office. From my desk to the break room or bathroom and back (2 or 3 times per day) and then back to my car at the end of the day.  And yet, by the time I was hobbling (yes it hurt so bad I was actually hobbling). Yáll is was below freezing outside and I was actually contemplating taking my boots off and walking to my car in sock feet.  I was desperate for relief.

So I need to know, ladies, how do you manage to wear high heels regularly?  Is this a get used to the pain thing?  Is there a trick that someone forgot to tell me?  Is this just something we must suffer through and only true females who have style find it worth the cause? If I wore heels more often, would I get used to them?

Please tell me I'm doing something wrong.  I'm kind of on side.  Wearing heels would be so nice.  I need every inch I can take.

To add insult to injury, my five year old prances around in her heels for hours every day.  They don't seem to bother her.

So, am I the only one who can't wear heels? Please let me know that I'm not alone. Or if you were once me, how you managed to start wearing heels.